A Sermon by The Very Rev’d Frank Nelson
Revelation 7:9-17, Psalm 34:1-10.22, 1 John 3:1-3, Matthew 5:1-12
I found myself close to tears when I read Catherine’s words on Monday morning. I’d emailed her after Evensong last Sunday night to say I thought we might have about $7,000.00 from our special collection that day. You will have read her response in the eNews on Friday and it’s printed in the service books today, but I think it is worth reading again. After all, it is written to you, the people of St Peter’s Cathedral, who rose so magnificently and generously and sacrificially to help a family in need. Listen to Catherine’s words:
What a wonderfully loving, Christ-like response! Please give my deeply grateful thanks to your congregations! I told the Rohingya family yesterday evening when I took them their food box that this lovely Christian priest was going to ask his congregation to help them with bond and rent – and you could see the smiling relief on their faces! They will be thrilled when I tell them they can now look for a house – they have two weeks before Immigration evict them from their current detention house. Catherine
And while I quite like being described as ‘this lovely Christian priest’ I have a descriptor for you this morning – the Saints of God. What a great day to recognise and celebrate the good thing we did last week. I am confident that, with the money that has continued to come in during the week – some to the Cathedral, some directly to the Circle of Friends – the total is now in excess of $10,000.00. What a beautiful ray of light in a very dark situation. How different this generosity is to the current official line of Australia on both refugees and asylum seekers.
But before we get too carried away with back-slapping and self-congratulation, let’s pause and give thanks to God for All the Saints – all those who in their way and their time and their place have shone with the light of Christ into an all too often dark world.
Give thanks that we, and All the Saints down the ages, have been called by Jesus Christ to live into His Gospel Kingdom. A way of life that puts others first, that recognises the humanity in those different to us, that cares for the ‘widows and orphans’, the resident aliens among us, the forgotten, the unnoticed, the dispossessed, the ignored of this world.
Give thanks for those who have inspired us on our journey of faith – a parent or grandparent, a teacher, next door neighbour – the one who first took us to church, introduced us to Jesus, prayed with us, invited us to read the Bible with them. Give thanks for the inspiration of those who, though they lived centuries and more ago, have nonetheless shone brightly down to our day – the people we remember at our weekday Eucharists. In recent weeks these include Elizabeth Fry – prison reformer; Teresa of Avila, teacher and mystic; Bishops Latimer and Ridley and Ignatius of Antioch – all martyred for their faith in Christ. Henry Martyn, bible translator and missionary; James of Jerusalem – brother of Our Lord; Simon and Jude – Apostles; Martin Luther and all the other Continental Reformers. The list goes on and on and so we end up with today’s catch-all celebration of All Saints.
Give thanks for those who have heard the call of God to the particular ministry of the ordained – as deacon, priest or bishop. Pray for those who will be ordained to the priesthood at the end of this month – Jo, Paul, Peter, Des – their names are included in today’s intercessions in your service booklets. Give thanks for those whose faith goes largely unnoticed – seen only by God and perhaps those closest to them. For the good deeds done in Jesus’ name, or simply done, without any expectation of reward.
Give thanks for those of faith and no or different faith who, over the years, decades, centuries, have cared for the world and all of God’s good creation. Those whose vision has led to action – action which has turned the world around and made it a better place for all. The researchers into improved agricultural methods, water saving devices, exploration of natural and renewable energy sources; those whose skill, knowledge and sheer courage has taken them into new fields of medicine, finding vaccines to combat deadly diseases, pioneering the surgical skills we take almost for granted today. Those who have spent decades studying the habits and habitats of animals, birds, insects, fish and so can offer good and helpful advice to government and other agencies. Those who care for the wealth and welfare of nations. Those who put themselves in the way of danger to bring others to safety – fire fighters, first responders, police and military personnel. The list goes on – there are so many who deserve the title ‘saint’.
Nor do we forget those who are persecuted today; whose faith leads them into suffering. Be thankful for the courageous few who stand up to evil, who are not afraid to shine a light into the darkness, to recognise evil for what it is and blow the whistle. Be thankful for those whose calling is to bring beauty and joy, peace and laughter, colour and playfulness into our lives and world.
Give thanks for God’s gracious invitation to all to take a seat at the heavenly table, to be present at the wedding banquet, to join in the praises of the angels and archangels and all who have gone before us and will come after us. Give thanks for the incredible community we call church – divided, rent asunder, all too often lacking in love – yet, by divine grace, forgiven, transformed, no longer sinners but saints; people of every nation, tribe and language; people rich and poor, the clever and the slow, the well and the sick, the frail and the strong – one, holy, catholic and apostolic. For everyone there is a space – for every saint there is a place.
Above all, on this Festival of All Saints, give thanks for Jesus Christ, the Son, the Saviour, the Crucified, the Risen, the Ascended, the Glorified Lord of Hosts – the servant who took a towel and washed the feet of his disciples. May this Christ, who makes saints of sinners and has transformed those whom we remember today, raise and strengthen you and me that we may transform the world as we step into the future with imagination, purpose and grace. (Words from A blessing for All saints, ANZPB and Cathedral 150 prayer)
For all the saints who from their labours rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesu, be for ever blest. Alleluia!